The Notre Dame Fighting Irish (33-0), one of two undefeated teams in the country, started off their NCAA Tournament with a bang, earning an easy victory against the Robert Morris Colonials (21-12). The 16th seed in the Notre Dame region, the Colonials were thoroughly outmatched in this one, falling behind big early and never threatening the undisputed top-seeded Irish.
Notre Dame was in taking-care-of-business mode, maintaining great focus against an opponent that would have been easy to overlook with sights set on a bigger prize. The Irish grabbed a double-digit lead within five minutes and coasted into a 35-point halftime lead.
Their depth was on display in this one, as 11 players scored for the Irish. They were led in scoring at halftime by two unexpected players, as Michaela Mabrey (11) and Ariel Braker (10) had both already eclipsed their per-game scoring average.
The second half was more of the same, as Notre Dame pushed its lead to as many as 54 points before cruising to the 93-42 victory. The Irish were able to rest their starters, none of whom had to play more than 20 minutes.
Notre Dame was led by Mabrey with her game-high 16 points in a team-high 27 minutes of play on 6 of 7 shooting. She was joined in double-digits by Natalie Achonwa (15), Jewell Loyd (15), Madison Cable (13), and Ariel Braker (10). Naismith and Wooden Award finalist Kayla McBride was quiet in her 20 minutes of work with 9 points and 4 assists, as she was happy to take a back seat in the easy victory.
With the opening round victory, the road to Nashville and the Final Four still very much looks to end up as a collision course between the two undefeated powers in the women's college hoops world. Both Notre Dame and the Connecticut Huskies look primed for perhaps the biggest meeting in their rivalry's history in the championship game.
But there is still plenty of work to be done to get there. Notre Dame suits up again in Toledo on Monday as they take on the 9th-seeded Arizona State Sun Devils, who defeated the 8 seed Vanderbilt Commodores. The game tips off at 6:30pm EST and should be featured on ESPN2.